When people talk about driving in the winter, it often instills dread if not downright fear. Based in Rochester NY, we have unpredictable (and usually absurd) weather year round, especially as we venture into fall and winter – the roads get slick with ice, slush, and everything in between. With December right around the corner (first snowfall happened overnight ❄❄❄), if you haven’t already, it’s about time to switch to your snow tires and batten down the hatches. But what else can you do to prepare for travelling in the months ahead?
Here are some tips that can help you prepare for anything on the road in the upcoming months:
Drive safer. Okay, let’s face it – we all develop habits when we get comfortable behind the wheel that may not exactly adhere to “the Rules of the Road”. Using safe driving practices in the winter months and taking it slow when necessary is the best and easiest advice anyone can take, and is the least you can do in a blizzard to protect yourself and others. (That being said, it’s also the easiest to ignore.) Common things to check yourself for: Keeping a safe distance between cars (AAA recommends you double the following distance), using your signals when applicable, not using Cruise Control on potentially slippery roads, don’t speed up to beat a storm, etc.*
Make sure your car is ready for snow. From defroster to windshield wipers to tires to brakes, “winterizing” your car can be half the battle. Schedule an inspection to make sure everything is in check. Learn more about the specifics of winterizing your car here. Tip: Keeping your gas tank at least half full also helps prevent your gas-line from freezing.
Locate or purchase your trusty snow brush/ice scraper. You may have pulled it out of your car for the summer; make sure to have your snow brush on hand in your trunk or backseat.
Always travel with your cell phone. In the case of an emergency, you will want to have your cell phone in order to make a call for help. For longer drives, keep someone at your destination informed on your ETA so someone knows your general location on the road. If you have to pull over (due to car troubles or any other reason), if avoidable, don’t leave your car. If you absolutely have to, make sure to bundle up, stay out of busy roads on foot, and be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with frostbite.
Put together an emergency kit. Stocking an emergency kit to store in your car is a good idea year-round, but especially through winter. Some worthwhile supplies include:
– Heavy blankets (or a heat retaining space blanket) and extra sweaters, jackets, mittens, hats, or other outerwear for warmth.
– Purchasing or assembling a Car First Aid Kit is a year-round essential. In the event that you’re one of the “116,800 Americans injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement” annually, you’ll be thankful to have it.
– Prescription medication (if applicable).
– Emergency Contact Information.
– A Vehicle Distress Flag or any piece of bright colored fabric to make yourself more visible while pulled to the side of the road. If you need to leave the vehicle, we recommend throwing a Safety Vest over your winter coat.
– A powerful or high-beam Flashlight will help both your visibility, and help you see in the event of an incident in the evening or night.
– High energy snacks (salted canned nuts, hard candy, etc.) will keep your blood sugar up if you are stranded and waiting for help. While you can’t leave a water bottle in your car without it freezing, it’s more important than food. Be sure to bring a water bottle with you.
– Jumper cables – you never know when you’ll need a jump or you’ll be able to help someone else out.
– If you have the space, carrying a spare and knowing how to change a flat tire is always useful.
Change your headlight and/or brake lights. If you haven’t switched out these bulbs lately, changing these before they go out is a good idea for winter. In a blizzard, working lights are crucial to your visibility.
Plan your routes ahead of time. Optimizing your route to travel primarily on main roads and expressways that are more likely to be plowed and salted can help you get where you’re going safer and as efficiently as possible.
Getting ready for Winter Driving is easy to neglect until it’s too late, but following these tips can make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand for any snowy situation.
*While preparing yourself for winter travel is important, even the highest amount of preparation is no substitute for defensive driving practices